January 23, 2017 By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff
The Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee, Justice (retired) Edmond K. Cowan, has told Concord Times that the final report of his 80-man committee will be presented to President Ernest Bai Koroma Tuesday, 25th January, at State House.
The respected retired judge, former Speaker of Parliament and extant Ombudsman was speaking after media reports erroneously imputed that the presentation ceremony, initially slated for last Friday, had been cancelled because of him.
In a narrative similar to previous ones aimed at pillorying him, apparently for his stance on ensuring that the new constitution represents the collective wishes of Sierra Leoneans and not a few interested persons or organisations, a faceless source at State House was quoted to have blamed the aborted presentation on the CRC chairman.
However, he told Concord Times that: “My wish is not to upstage State House! A lady from State House called me late on Thursday to confirm as to whether we will be ready to present the report on Friday (20 January),” adding that no one had notified him prior to that day.
Concord Times gathered that Attorney-General’s Office should have notified the CRC Secretariat about the presentation ceremony but bizarrely failed to communicate the date and time to either inform the chairman or the secretariat.
Justice Cowan was appointed by the erstwhile Attorney-General Franklyn Ben Kargbo to head an 80-man committee in 2013 tasked with reviewing the country’s 1991 Constitution, in accordance with one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report.
After three years of painstakingly going round the country and ensuring that Sierra Leoneans have their candid say as to the provisions of the constitution, it emerged that the majority want the two-term limit of five years each to be retained, and the controversial ‘Supreme Executive Authority’ to be replaced by ‘Chief Executive Authority’, among other progressive recommendations.
This, as expected, is not music to some elements within government who had controversially bandied the unconstitutional ‘More Time’ agenda. Thus, they have targeted the chairman in a campaign of calumny and ad hominem attacks.
But Justice Cowan has brushed aside all those attacks, including the latest one as he prepares to hand in the report at noon Tuesday to the President and his government, who are expected to prepare a whitepaper adopting or rejecting the recommendations of the committee.
Meanwhile, a group of respected civil society groups in the country, while urging the National Electoral Commission to announce a date for elections next year, have urged Chief Electoral Commissioner N’fa Allie Conteh to emulate the CRC chairman as one of few Sierra Leoneans to have helped strengthened our fragile democracy by not bowing to any pressure from interested political groups.